ASHEBORO, N.C. — The North Carolina Zoo announced Monday that Maggie, the 46-year-old matriarch of the chimpanzee troop, was humanely euthanized on Friday after a period of declining health.
Maggie lived a full life for her species — female chimpanzees typically live for approximately 40 years, zoo officials said in a news release.
Maggie was one of the Zoo’s longest residents. With her passing, all the members of the Zoo’s original chimp troop that opened the habitat in 1980 are now gone. She was the alpha (or dominant) female of the troop for more than 35 years.
With Maggie’s passing, zookeepers anticipate that chimp Ruby, 22, will become the next alpha female.
Maggie arrived at the Zoo in 1980 from Natural Bridge Zoo In Virginia. Her daughter Bea, born in 1987, now lives at the Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita, Kansas.
“Maggie’s health had been slowly declining over the past week,” said the Zoo’s Director of Animal Health Dr. Jb Minter.
Dr. Minter further explained: “During a closer examination it was determined she had developed signs of sepsis and severe peritonitis (an infection of the lining of the abdominal wall) from a perforation in her large intestines. Due to her advanced age, the severity of the disease and complications associated with the post-surgical care of this condition, the animal care and veterinary teams made the difficult decision to euthanize Maggie.”
Maggie’s body was presented to the chimpanzee troop so they could observe the death and mourn the loss.
Jennifer Campbell, one of her keepers for 14 years, described Maggie as a strong force in the chimp troop. “She acted like she was too tough to care about the humans who cared for her, but one time she let her guard down and let me play with her toes,” Campbell said.
She added: “Being allowed to tickle her toes until she laughed was one of the highlights of my career here because it made me feel so special. I always admired her bossiness and her unwillingness to take any nonsense from anybody. She was one of a kind.”
“All of us at the North Carolina Zoo are grieving her loss,” said Zoo Director Pat Simmons. “Our dedicated and experienced animal keeper and veterinary teams gave her the best care. Her commanding presence will be sorely missed by our staff and guests.”